Dramatic Visions For LA's Transit Hub Unveiled, But to What End?

Sam Lubell reports on the speculative visions unveiled this week by six teams of international design talent competing to develop a Master Plan for LA's historic Union Station and its surrounding properties.
April 27, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Lubell describes the "strange state of affairs" surrounding the competition to work with Metro, the regional transportation authority, to develop the Union Station Master Plan, and the recent public unveiling of "vision boards" from the six competing teams which, as was openly noted, have no relevance to the competition, the purview of the future Master Plan, or what could actually get built.

At Wednesday's show and tell, presenters from the multinational teams, such as Ben Van Berkel, of UN Studio, and Renzo Piano, were given five minutes each to describe their speculative visions for how the neighborhood around the station (stretching from downtown to the LA River) might look in the year 2050.

While imaginative and stimulating, as Lubell notes, "The boards, presented in front of a packed house at the station yesterday, will hold no weight in the team selection. That choice will be made, by the end of June, on the much more nuts-and-bolts basis of qualifications, interviews, data collection, draft alternatives and implementation strategies, aka 'scope of work.'"

What then was their purpose? "'It's about fun and inspiration and the future of Los Angeles,' said Martha Welborne, Metro Executive Director, Countywide Planning, of the vision boards. She appears to be fighting an uphill battle to get the bureaucratic and engineering-driven agency to embrace design. 'It's about opening up their imagination before they have to get serious about the limitations,' she noted, of the architect/engineer teams' proposals. 'These are not going to get built.'"

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Published on Thursday, April 26, 2012 in The Architect's Newspaper
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